What motivates us?

It’s probably some people’s idea of hell but on Saturday, as I cycled through the wind & rain, soaked through and literally mucked up to the eyeballs, I couldn’t help smiling to myself about how great it felt! I had to close my mouth though as the muck was splatting my teeth 🙂 It was easy for me to see the motivation for doing this – simple – I enjoyed cycling at speed, the wet, the muck, the burn of the thigh muscles as I tried to hit 30mph +. As a result I covered 25 miles in what seemed like no time. I was punctured (excuse the pun) when I got home and it felt terrific. I didn’t need any motivation to do this.

Sunday was a different story. It was long run day and I had “wasted” my day ‘off running’ by going on a 25mile cycle and was pretty “wasted” in terms of energy for a run. I could’ve easily opted out but instead I took my lazy ass out for a 12mile run.

It took all my willpower to go and I didn’t really enjoy the last few miles. I was sluggish, I was hungry and I wasn’t getting anywhere fast.

What motivates us to do things we don’t always enjoy? Why did I not take the easy option and stay in my warm, cosy house and read the Sunday papers, or finish the book on William Wilberforce that I have set down for the past three weeks as I have been “too busy” or “too tired” to pick up?

I don’t know what motivates me…this weekend a friend called me ‘nuts’ and I suppose that’s probably true, but there must be deeper reasons for what is often, fairly irrational behaviour. I have a few ideas:

  1. The need to feel that we are good or improving at something. Once we get to a certain level we don’t want to lose it. Whether it be work or sports.
  2. Status? Yeah, although most of us won’t admit it openly we often take pride in our roles/abilities – be this a managerial position in work, a salary increase, or finishing in a good position in a race!
  3. Longevity (steady on)… I mean in terms of life expectancy. I certainly feel a bit of a mid-life crisis coming on and the more I hear of death, the more my fear compounds this need to live healthier and hopefully extend life that little bit further. Ageing is a massive fear of mine and that brings to the next point…
  4. Vanity – this is possibility the biggest factor – particular in sports motivation. Few will admit it, but when we are in decent shape, feel good and others say we are looking slimmer/healthier our vanity forces us to keep doing the things that gained us such praise…why else do we force oursleves to train when we don’t want to or diet when all we really want is a chicken curry with chips!
  5. There is one final weird one that is probably quite personal to me so don’t tell anyone. It’s fairly simple and it goes like this…I teach History and history is littered with examples of suffering & cruelty. Yip, most intriguing historical events involve these ingredients…I mentioned the William Wilberforce book earlier -he ended the British slave trade, but not before thousands had gone through untold suffering. When I need a kick up the ass I simply only have to pick up one of my many history books or read one of the awful stories the NSPCC post through the letter box (I did a marathon for that charity in 2010)! I’m no masochist, but I do remind myself, when the legs are exhausted and I don’t feel I can run much further/harder, that many inspirational people have suffered and survived all sorts of things. I don’t want to labour this point because it is not my main driving force (vanity probably is 🙂 ) but it is a motivational tool if we ever start to feel sorry for ourselves.

If you have any additional motivational factors – and there are many – please feel free to add… 🙂

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